There are about 350 Roman bridges in Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Not only are these still standing, but they have retained their style and masonry substance from that period. However, they are all in the southern part of the ancient Roman Empire, with a few significant exceptions. A recent review records 25 Roman bridges in France, but if a a horizontal line were drawn across the lowest quarter of the country, only three would lie north of it. (There are also a few Roman bridges in Germany and one in Belgium.) So marked is this geographical demarcation that it is hard to entirely blame bad weather for the absence of bridges in the north of Europe. It may be that bridges distant from Rome were built to a different specification- perhaps entirely wooden, or at best with wooden superstructure and masonry piers. In Scotland, as well as in England, no standing bridges remain from that period, although there are some archeological findings. This absence contrasts with tradition and unsupported history.
Bertha ( Tay River. 310498,727021) About 3.5 km upstream of the present bridge at Perth. Not part of the collection.The Roman road from Camelon (Larbert ) coursed through Stirling, Braco, Strageith, Innerpeffray and along the Gask Ridge to Bertha at Perth. The 9 acre fort at Bertha, on the banks of the Tay, was first described by Maitland and then by Roy in the 18th century, with subsequent extensive confirmation through the 20th century. Redgorton Old Statistical Accounts (about 1793) includes the following note- “ The foundation of a wooden bridge thrown over the Tay at this place still remains, it consists of large oak planks, from six to eight inches in diameter, fastened together by long stairs, but coarsely jointed, and surrounded with clasps of iron, frequently twisted. It would seem that screwbolts and fine made joints were then unknown. I caused one of them to be raised some years ago at the request of the late Dr. Hope, who assured me that the fabric of the wood was not in the least decayed.” These remains could still be seen at the time of the New Statistical Accounts (1845). Wooliscroft notes that nothing appeared to remain through the 20th century and a 1960’s sub-aqua investigation appeared to be unsuccessful. Much as these descriptions are compelling, the evidence remains anecdotal - and as Wooliscroft observes, ” ..we can only admit that we have no idea whether the structure was Roman , or even exactly where it was” He has no need to remind us that the old Roman road was probably in use through the dark ages and into the early medieval period.
Balmuildy ( Kelvin River) Not part of the collection
At Balmuildy on the Antonine Wall ( 257963 671843) the remains of stone abutments were uncovered in 1941 with some blocks appearing to have been part of a cutwater. No voussoirs were found which might suggest that the superstructure was of wood. An oak beam was part of the finding. These remnants can be seen in the Huntarian Museum in Glasgow. However dendrochronology later proved the oak beam to be 14th century. A Roman bridge may or may not have preceded the medieval one. There is no bridged crossing at Balmuildy on any of the three old maps.
Polmont Burn (292495 679503) Not part of the collection.
This may be the only firm evidence of Roman bridge remains in Scotland. In 1992, at Polmont on the Antonine wall, two bridge abutments were found, 4.6m apart: the remains of a bridge carrying the military way adjacent to the Wall. Channels in the stone appeared to be seating for horizontal wooden beam decking. ( Bailey, GB.1996 ‘Stream crossing on the Antonine Wall’. (Proc Soc Antiq Scot,Vol.126,1.P 355-60). Does not appear on any of the old maps.
Duntocher (Duntocher Burn) 249386 672790. Included in the collection. This bridge at was completely rebuilt in 1772 by Lord Blantyre. The date stone in Latin claims that the bridge was built by Quintus Lollius Urbicus. The style of Latin and content is inappropriate and the style of the bridge (segmental ) is scarcely compatible. This is a later 18th century bridge. However, the proximity to the Antonine wall genuinely suggests that the bridge depicted on Roy and on Blaeu might have been Roman.
Roman Bridge, Inverkip (222307 672549) Kip Water Included in the collection.
15th or 16th century packhorse bridge. Slightly gothic arch (or broken semicircular arch). Appears on Roy and Blaeu.
Roman Bridge, Inverary ( 205910 704805) Douglas water Included in the collection. 18th C. single segmental arch. Appears only on Roy.
Darvel Roman Bridge (Law bridge) (257027 638268) Glen Burn. Included in the collection. Late 18th century bridge in the Irvine Valley. Appears on Roy and Blaeu.
Musselburgh Roman Bridge R.Esk (334075 672537) Included in the collection. 16th century bridge with a 14th C. history and probably some 14th C. masonry. Reputed to have 6th C. foundations. Lies on a putative Roman road but the Roman connection is very doubtful. However, we know that in 1809 the face of one of the 16th century buttresses was opened up and inside the outer masonry, remains of still older masonry resting on transverse oak beams was found. There are 3 segmental arches of 16th century style. The bridge is on Roy and on Blaeu.
Lornty Bridge Blairgowrie Lornty Burn (317124 746483) Included in the collection. A modern bridge incorporating two very old arches. The older arch may be 15th C. Reputed to be Roman; this is unlikely as the only known Roman road is about 10k away, which is far enough to exclude any association and yet near enough to make a duplicate road unlikely. Appears on Roy and Pont.
Dean Bridge, Cardean Dean Water(328656 745836) Included in the collection. This 17th century two span semicircular bridge appears to lie precisely on the Roman crossing of the Dean Water. It is adjacent to the Roman Fort with the Agricolan road running through. Roy (1750) and Crawford (1939 'Topography') both confirmed this. Hoffmann (2001. Roman Gask Project Report) gives a good account of the Roman and Iron Age findings at the site. Appears only on Roy
Roman Bridge, Bothwellhaugh South Calder Water (272886,657973)
Included in the collection. Within Strathclyde Park, this single semicircular arched bridge lies close to Watling Street as it approaches Bothwell from the South. Roy depicts the Roman crossing a little upstream of the bridge, but includes both the bridge and the crossing. The bridge is noted in the Old Stat.Accts of 1791 but is absent from Blaeu and from Pont. Paintings and old photos suggest that there had been considerable loss from spandrels and parapets before the present low level coping was added in the late 19th century so it was probably not a packhorse bridge. It appears to be older than 18th century but its absence from Pont and Blaeu is important. May be 17th century.
Roman Bridge, Monzie nr Crieff. (287849,725070) Shaggie water. Not in the Collection. A beautiful, small 16th or 17th C. packhorse bridge which does not appear on any of the old maps. It does not lie on the Roman road which is about 10km to the South. Nor does it lie on the adjacent old old military road which may be the footprint of a Roman road through the Sma’Glen. Not in the collection because it is not on any of the old maps.
There are a few other bridges which do appear to lie on confirmed Roman roads. These include Brigghouse Bridge at West Linton , Bishop's Bridge at Muthill, Drumlanrig Bridge in the Nith Valley (possibly) and Cleghorn Bridge in Lanarkshire. None of these have any Roman remains. Earlston Bridge on the Leader Water, Newmills Bridge (Dalkeith, South Esk) and Lugton Bridge (Dalkeith, North Esk) maybe close to the progress of Dere St., going north. The bridges at Larbert, Whins of Milton, Stirling, Bridge of Allan and Dunblane also may be close to the main Roman road north from the Antonine Wall.